Claire Voyant's Las Vegas Gossip Column

Displaying keen perception and great insight.  
She's a little bit naughty. She’s a little bit nice.  
She calls ‘em like she sees (and hears) ‘em.  

Claire Voyant  

Note: This is a past column from September 28, 2007
You can find the current column HERE

Las Vegas - September 28, 2007

Prince Spencer Stephen Sorrentino Philip Fortenberry

Dr. Prince Spencer, one of the early innovators of the acrobatic tap style, celebrates his 90th birthday, on October 3rd. The "one step brother", as Redd Foxx called him, began dancing with The Four Step Brothers more than half a century ago. Also known as "Eight Feet of Rhythm" and "America's Greatest Dance Team," the Step Brothers presented fast rhythm taps, acrobatics, boogie woogie, jitterbug style, splits and flash tap dancing that electrified audiences all over the world. The Challenge Dance was The Four Step Brothers' specialty, a tap dance with no musical accompaniment, only the rhythm of clapping hands, as each individual tries to outdo the one before him, showing off his best tap steps. Prince's dancing was brilliant and set a standard for speed. During his years dancing with The Four Step Brothers, he always danced last - because no one could top him and no one wanted to follow him. Duke Ellington brought them to the famous Cotton Club in Harlem and they were the first black attraction to play at Radio City Music Hall, Chicago's Chez Paree, Miami's Copa Beach, Paris' Lido, and London's Cafe de Paree. They performed for General Franco, Queen Elizabeth, Prince Rainier III, Princess Grace of Monaco, Emperor Hirohito, King Farouk and Presidents Eisenhower, Truman, Kennedy and Reagan. They appeared on television's The Ed Sullivan Show and on Bob Hope specials, and with Steve Allen, Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis and Perry Como among others. For more than 40 years, the legendary Four Step Brothers were the most imitated tap dance act in show business and appeared in more than 40 movies, including The Patsy with Jerry Lewis, Here Come the Girls with Bob Hope, When Johnny Comes Marching Home with Donald O'Connor, and It Ain't Hay with Bud Abbott and Lou Costello just to name a few. Mr. Spencer also appeared in the films Harlem Nights with Eddie Murphy and Ghost of a Chance with Dick Van Dyke, and in Redd Foxx's Sanford and Son and The Royal Family on television. (Spencer was a business associate of Foxx's for many years.) The Four Step Brothers were recognized for their contribution to the art of tap dancing with a Life Achievement Award in 1985, and they received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1988. Luminaries such as Sammy Davis, Jr., Milton Berle and Donald O'Connor turned out to pay tribute to the four Hollywood greats. It has been said "The Four Step Brothers (were) to dance what Duke Ellington, Louis Armstrong and Cab Calloway (were) to music." Spencer is the recipient of an honorary Doctorate of Dance from Oklahoma City University. In recent years, he has been guest of honor at numerous Tap Festivals, and is on the faculty in St. Louis, Chicago and New York, where his classes quickly fill up. Happy birthday, Prince Spencer.

And speaking of birthdays, we also wish a happy one to impressionist/comic/singer/ musician/actor/songwriter (did we forget anything?) Stephen Sorrentino who celebrates his natal day on October 4th. The busy entertainer has a full schedule, with corporate engagements in Orlando and at the Hard Rock and Wynn in Las Vegas. For the next couple of months, Sorrentino will be performing his Voices In My Head revue in exotic sounding locals such as Gran Turk, La Romana, Cancun, Cozumel, Lisbon and Ontario, Canada (okay, so the last location doesn't sound exactly exotic). Sorrentino takes Voices In My Head into the Suncoast showroom from December 14th through the 16th, and he will spend New Year's Eve entertaining audiences at Harrah's Casino & Resort. Quite honestly, the only thing Cousin Claire has seen Mr. Sorrentino do on stage was a couple of dramatic pieces. We found him to be surprisingly good and look forward to seeing another aspect of his talent. We will be at the Suncoast over the December 14th weekend to see more of Stephen Sorrentino. Tickets for Voices In My Head at the Suncoast should go on sale around October 1st. Call (702) 636-7075.

Other birthday celebrants include singer/actress Melissa Miles, musician Adam Pero, theater maven Jerry Ritholz, singer Sonny Turner, singer/actress Tina Walsh and actor/singer/dancer Bart Williams. Many happy returns of the day to one and all.

And speaking of Bart Williams, he is currently performing in Cole Porter's Kiss Me Kate at the Civic Light Opera of South Bay Cities. It's at the Redondo Beach Performing Arts Center through October 14th. Call (310) 372-4477 for reservations.

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It's Philip Fortenberry who is the featured artist at this month's Brown Bag Concert Series, presented by the Performing Arts Society of Nevada. The piano virtuoso will perform at 2 p.m. on Sunday (September 30th) at the Clark County Library on East Flamingo. Fortenberry‘s presentation is called Now Just Me (as opposed to "him" hidden in the orchestra pit, overshadowed by a cast of hundreds). Philip, a native of Columbia, Mississippi, began playing piano at the age of four, and by seven, he was the accompanist for his church. In 1982, he moved to New York City where he plunged straight into work with numerous Broadway productions and national tours of shows such as The Lion King, The Look of Love, Thou Shalt Not, Ragtime, Side Show, Jesus Christ Superstar, Saturday Night Fever, Seussical The Musical, and even Cats. Philip also toured with Michael Crawford in The Music of Andrew Lloyd Webber, and has performed in various concerts from Carnegie Hall to the White House. In addition to being an accomplished pop and rock pianist, Philip has a Master's Degree in classical piano performance. Since moving to Las Vegas in 2004, Fortenberry has served as musical director for We Will Rock You (at Paris Las Vegas) and is currently the associate conductor for Mamma Mia! at Mandalay Bay. Philip is also associated with the inspiring musical presentation, God Lives In Glass. If you miss these types of offerings, you haven't really experienced The Entertainment Capital of the World. Tickets for the concert are a very reasonable $15. Call the PAS at (702) 658-6741 for additional information and reservations.

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And, if you happen to be in New York, Eric Comstock is back at the Metropolitan Room, with show times at 7:30 p.m., tonight and tomorrow night (September 28th and 29th). Comstock will feature Sean Smith on bass and Randy Napoleon on guitar. Steven Holden of the New York Times describe Mr. Comstock as "An ideal balance of swinging precision and good-humored warmth ..." "A voice that flows as smoothly as rye and sweet vermouth over ice ..." says Christopher Loudon from JazzTimes, while William Grim, of All About Jazz, states, "Eric Comstock 'owns' the Great American Songbook like Tony Bennett and Mel Torme, and he is one of the best of the crop of young jazz singers and song stylists to come along in recent years." The Metropolitan Room is located at 34 West 22 Street in New York City. Call (212) 206-0440 for reservations.

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Barbara C. Willingham Martin Kreloff Skye Dee Miles

We try to let readers know about interesting entertainment offerings before they happen so, if it sounds like something they would enjoy, they can see it for themselves. Every once in a while (like now), we don't give a big pitch on a particular program because we have never seen, or heard much about it. Such is the case with Songs of Broadway, starring Barbara C. Willingham. This presentation will take place at the Charleston Heights Arts Center this Sunday (the 30th). The title alone is enough to pique our interest, so we will be there to check it out. What we have learned through their Web site is that, for more than 30 years, the Songs of Broadway Co. has captivated audiences everywhere from Maine to Texas. Dozens of great theater songs are expertly performed by a young, multi-talented, costumed cast of singers/dancers, in a 90-minute exhilarating decade-by-decade format. Favorite songs from Annie, Annie Get Your Gun, Carousel, Cats, Chicago, Company, Evita, 42nd Street, Grease, Guys and Dolls, La Cage aux Folles, Mame, Music Man, My Fair Lady, Oklahoma!, Oliver!, Phantom of the Opera, Ragtime, Rent, South Pacific and Sweeney Todd are among those featured. Actually, we don't know why we are teasing you theater-lovers with information on something you probably won't get a chance to see least this time around. If you haven't already bought your tickets, you are probably out of luck. When we checked a few days ago, there were only a few scattered unsold seats left at the Charleston Heights Theater. Call (702) 229-6383 to check on any last minute cancellations.

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The entrepreneurial Jeanne Bavaro Acosta has a new project up her pretty designer sleeve. In addition to her other duties (personal manager, producer, mom), Jeanne is acting as project coordinator/advisor in assisting creative director/photographer Brad Zucroff as he works on a new coffee table book called America at Home - A Close-Up Look at How We Live. For seven days, from September 17th through the 23rd, everyone in America was invited to join 100 of the nation's leading photojournalists to capture "the emotions of home." The goal of the project is to show the extraordinary economic, geographic, racial, political, and social diversity that makes up American family life. Zucroff (he and his wife Bambi have been Las Vegans for a little more than a year) has quite a resume. He began his career as a photojournalist at the Watsonville Register-Pajaronian and the Monterey Peninsula Herald. Zucroff spent six years as a staff photographer for United Press International and, among his many assignments, covered the 1976 Ronald Reagan presidential campaign, the Gerald Ford-Jimmy Carter debates, Mount St. Helens, the Alaska Pipeline, the Vietnamese Boat People, and the war in Nicaragua. Some of the sporting events that Zucroff documented include World Cup skiing, four Super Bowls and World Series, two NCAA Final Four championships, and the U.S. Open, PGA Championship, and Masters golf. He was art director, graphics editor, and picture editor at the San Jose Mercury News. He worked eight years as a magazine art director, directing the art, design, and photography for magazines at Whittle Communications - National Geographic Traveler and Sunset Magazine. From 1997-2001, he worked as a principal consultant and creative director for Price Waterhouse Management Consulting, then as a customer experience architect and strategist for the e-Business consultancy, Scient. Beginning in 2002 as a freelance creative director, he participated in a wide-range of editorial projects, which included working as creative director for the New York Times best-selling America 24/7 book project in 2003-2004. He was one of three finalists for the 1977 Pulitzer Prize in feature photography for coverage of the 1976 Ronald Reagan presidential campaign, and his design and art direction have won numerous awards from the Art Director's Club of New York, Art Director's Club of Washington, D.C., the Communication Arts Photography Annual, the Society of Illustrators, the Society of Publication Designers, Print Magazine's Regional Design Annuals, and Society for News Design. He currently lives Las Vegas, and is represented by Polaris Images in New York City. During the week of September 17th, Zucroff, with Bavaro assisting, visited and photographed residences of a dozen Las Vegans. The photos, and stories that go with them, will be reviewed by a committee who will decide which ones will be selected for inclusion in the book, due out in March. Magician Rick Thomas and his big cats were photographed around the backyard pool. While on the shoot, a 600-pound tiger took quite a fancy to the photographer's sandal. Luckily, his foot wasn't in it at the time. Other Las Vegans who opened up their homes (and lives) are Phil Maloof, showing his collection of cars and other memorabilia; Rich Little and his wife Marie, featuring their movie room; the costume room in the home of the Acostas (Jeanne, Bill and daughter Angela); female impersonator Frank Marino, who goes back into the closet to show his off-stage fashions, as well as his fan donated stuffed animal collection; Toni Hart's Hartland Mansion where a wedding was being performed; ventriloquist Ronn Lucas and his outdoor living inside a camping tent; champion juggler Nino Frediani and wife Kinuko, who have their own backyard chapel; musician Karen Gott and her collection of rare harps in the family music room; Bob and Lynn Perlman's spectacular high-in-the-sky Turnberry penthouse; recording artist Mike Jones and Cathe Boudreau Jones' unique place (Mike is the piano player for magicians Penn and Teller, while Cathe is an author/comedian and trains rats for movie and television use) showcasing a very special nine-foot concert grand; and the extremely talented artist (who does primarily portraits of people and pets), Martin Kreloff. Sounds like a book many folks will want to add to their library.

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Kelly Clinton will preview her new one woman show, Out of My Mind: An Evening with Kelly Clinton, at the Family Music Centers, 8125 W. Sahara, October 1st at 7 p.m. Tickets are $25, with proceeds benefiting the Southern Nevada chapter of the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society's Team in Training campaign. Clinton, who performs weekends at the Stirling Club and is the private venue's entertainment director, and also spends a lot of time at the Bootlegger Bistro (where she gave a sample of her versatility and talent in a one woman show in early August), will be introducing a cast of characters that have played a role in her life through the years. "You might call them my alter egos who have supported my career," laughs Clinton. "They like the stage as much as I do and I love sharing it with them." The eclectic evening will also include her vocal stylings with her band, plus surprise guests. Members of the local Team in Training, which includes Clinton's brother, John Clinton (director of slots marketing at Bellagio), are preparing to run the Chicago Marathon on October 7th. Kelly and John's stepfather, Alfred Issa, recently completed his battle with lymphoma and, after six months of chemotherapy, has received a clean bill of health! "I'm very proud of how he has fought his way through this, and he inspires me everyday to keep working to be prepared for the marathon," said John. All of the Team in Training is raising funds to help stop leukemia, lymphoma, Hodgkin lymphoma and myeloma from taking more lives. John is completing this event in honor of Alfred and all individuals who are battling blood cancers. "These people are the real heroes on our team, and we need your support to cross the ultimate finish line -- a cure," he added. Tickets for the show can be purchased by calling (702) 210-9721 or (702) 810-0995.

And speaking of Kelly Clinton (and we frequently do), this coming Sunday (September 30th) her Celebrity Spotlight will feature Skye Dee Miles. Skye, who came to Las Vegas from San Francisco where she was a cast member of the famed Beach Blanket Babylon, is currently one of the stars of Menopause the Musical at the Las Vegas Hilton. It's always a real treat to see a performer step away from the character that audience members normally see them portray and get a chance to see them do "their own thing." The place is the Bootlegger Bistro on Las Vegas Blvd. South. Dinner seating is at 7 p.m., with the show following at 8. For reservations, call (702) 736-4939.

Jennifer Joseph Wayne Newton Neil Sedaka

On Saturday (the 29th) the Bootlegger's Bistro Spotlight will feature Jennifer Joseph. Jennifer is a pro. At 19 she started singing in casinos up and down the Las Vegas Strip. She became the principal vocalist in productions such as the Tropicana's famed Folies Bergere` and the long running Legends in Concert at the Imperial Palace. Jennifer became a tribute artist, performing as one of her favorite singers, Linda Ronstadt, and appearing in Atlantic City, Branson and Myrtle Beach showrooms. In 1995, Joseph won the title of Miss Nevada and went on to win the Talent Award at the 1995-96 Miss America Pageant in Atlantic City. She has performed and recorded with Julio Iglesias and Debbie Reynolds and, in 1998, braved the Harlem audience to get a standing ovation at Showtime at the Apollo. Jennifer competed on the reality TV show The Entertainer, starring Wayne Newton. She wound up as one of the top three finalists on the E Channel reality show, resulting in her being hired to sing backup for Newton. Jennifer Joseph has also worked with Don Rickles, opening for him at the HBO Comedy Festival at Caesars Palace, and in June, with singer/musician/songwriter David Pomeranz in Las Vegas. Check the show times and make reservations to see Jennifer Joseph by calling the Bootlegger at (702) 736-4939.

And speaking of Wayne Newton, did you see him on Dancing with the Stars during this last week? Yipes! It is no secret that Newton looks like a missing wax mannequin from Madame Tussauds (the wigs on the figures at The Venetian attraction look better than whatever that way-too-black thing is on top of Wayne's head), but who knew that the guy couldn't move? It is rather surprising that this 65-year-old man, who has been a musician since he was a child, has no sense of rhythm and no grace. The three judges were very kind to the onetime Mr. Las Vegas. If Simon Cowell had been sitting on that panel...well, we shudder to think. On Tuesday, the night that the celebrity men showed their stuff on the dance show, we received a call from a friend in the Midwest. The show had already aired there, and we were getting a short, to-the-point critique on Newton's performance. "Uncle Wayne isn't going to make it," stated the onetime Las Vegan. When he wasn't the first one to leave the competition during the Wednesday night elimination show, there came another cryptic message, "He's going to live to dance again." We can pretty much guarantee that the Wayner won't be dancing much longer, at least not on this show. Of the two options, his staying for a few more weeks or getting the boot very soon, we think an early departure would be the kindest cut. Sorry, Wayne.

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Tonight, Neil Sedaka, a Vegas favorite, finishes up a three-night engagement at The Orleans. Don't worry. If you are a fan, and missed this chance, Sedaka returns to The Orleans in November, from the 7th through the 11th. The man who, with his partner, the late Howard Greenfield, wrote songs such as Stupid Cupid, Happy Birthday Sweet Sixteen, Where The Boys Are, Everybody's Somebody's Fool, Calendar Girl and Love Will Keep Us Together (a big hit in 1975 for husband and wife Daryl Dragon and Toni Tennille, better known as the Captain & Tennille), among many others. Cousin Claire's personal favorite Sedaka songs are The Hungry Years, Solitaire and The Immigrant (she likes to weep while listening to music). Have you ever heard Neil's 1996 Classically Sedaka album? He has put English lyrics to classic opera pieces, including Puccini's beautiful Nessun Dorma, a hit for the late Luciano Pavarotti. On Friday, October 26th, Neil Sedaka will be honored for his 50 years in show business. If you remember, he was only 13 when he started writing with then 16-year-old Greenfield (Howard Greenfield died of AIDS in 1986). Sedaka was 19 when he had his first hit, The Diary. Friends, including Natalie Cole, Clay Aiken, Dion, Captain & Tennille, Gavin Degraw, David Foster with Renee Olstead, The Bad Plus and Raul Midon, will gather at Lincoln Center's Avery Fisher Hall in New York to sing the songs of Neil Sedaka in a show produced by Michael Dorf. Of course, Mr. Sedaka will also be performing. Regular ticket prices range from $40 to $140, and may be purchased at the Lincoln Center Box Office. VIP Tickets range from $250 to Silver Circle Tickets at $500, Gold Circle Tickets at $1,000 and Platinum Circle Tickets for $2,500. VIP tickets all include access to the special Artist Reception after the concert plus the best orchestra and box tickets available. Limited to the first 200 people. Net proceeds will benefit the Elton John AIDS Foundation. All but $175.00 of the ticket is a tax deductible. (You're welcome, Merrick.)

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We are hearing rumblings about unpleasant business going on at David Saxe's V Theater at Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino. No, this has nothing to do with low-ticket sales for V - The Ultimate Variety Show, Fab Four Mania, Gregory Popovich's Comedy Pet Theater or Mesmerized. On the contrary, the shows are doing well. This particular story involves the bad behavior of a married comedy/magician with his own show at the facility located in the Miracle Mile Shops at the hotel/casino. We understand this may even result in a lawsuit. Sounds like shades of the Jeff Kutash/Splash showgirl scandal of a couple of decades ago. The magic man will probably have to do some pretty fast-talking to make this problem disappear. To make reservations for any of the productions at V, call (702) 932-1818.

Captain & Tennille Renee Olstead Clay Aiken

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Things are really going to cool down on Tuesday, November 6th, when Holiday On Ice goes into The Orleans Arena for one night only. Special guest performers will be American Idol's Clay Aiken and 2006 United States National Champion, 2003 Grand Prix Final Champion, and 2006 Olympic Silver Medalist, ice skater Sasha Cohen. We will have more on this in a couple of weeks.

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